Friday, May 29, 2009

Some folks do look forward to June 1

The only people I can think of who look forward to the arrival of June 1 are Helen and Dewey Eason.

That's because it's their anniversary and will mark 53 years of marital bliss.

As for the rest of us Monday means one thing.

Hurricane season is upon us.

Although not exactly a laughing matter, I am amused by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2009 projections:.

It will be, in the NOAA’s words, a “near normal Atlantic hurricane season.”


Not in my book.

To me, normal means no storms, period.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Friday, May 22, 2009

What was Ben Axon thinking?

Graduation was days away for the Manatee High School senior.

A football scholarship to South Carolina awaited the potent Hurricanes running back, an apprenticeship in the SEC under Steve Spurrier.

It was all there waiting for him.

Then he goes and gets busted by Bradenton police Wednesday night.

Not just for marijuana possession. But possession with intent to sell.

What was Ben Axon thinking?

Now he may not be allowed to walk at commencement with his fellow seniors.

And who knows what Spurrier's decision will be?

All for 23 bags of dope.


What was Ben Axon thinking?

Certainly, his legal transgression does not fall in the same realm of felonious behavior exhibited by Palmetto High football players TaHeem Blake and Marquis Sanders.

Both were charged with murder in Febuary.

Yet what Axon did might kill his golden opportunity to excel as an athlete and get a free college education, too.

So close to graduation.

So close to beginning an exciting, new chapter in life.

What was Ben Axon thinking?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A new Wares Creek: I'll believe it when I see it

"I'll believe it when I see it."

"They've been saying that for years."

"It'll never happen."

Such has been the reaction over the years whenever the proposed Wares Creek dredging project ever came up in conversation.

Folks who either live there or have lived there were just a tad pessimistic.

Word that the Army Corps of Engineers finally got the permit from the state and can go hire a contractor may change that.

"Let me know when they start shoveling," another skeptic might say.

Considering the absolutely glacial pace the project's approval process has taken through the federal and state bureaucracies, it's understandable.

Twenty-five years? Wow.

I'm just glad it didn't get whacked like so many other projects that fell to budget cuts.

Somebody up there likes Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County's guru of natural resources.

That's good.

Next up? The county commission's approval, possibly next month.

Meantime, the waiting game goes on.

I'm reminded of something a former property owner told me when she sold the place next door a few years ago.

"When they dredge Wares Creek, your property value will go right up," she said.

I'll believe that when I see it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jim Brown still a man with presence

Jim Brown.

Say the name and young people connect it with Amer-I-Can, the empowerment program he founded in 1988 that has become a part of Manatee County's anti-gang campaign.

He'll be the keynote speaker Tuesday at Amer-I-Can's 11 a.m. graduation ceremonies at Braden River High School.

Jim Brown.

When I hear that name, I still think of No. 32 in a Cleveland Browns uniform, slashing his way through NFL defenses as he did for nine years.

He was the best.

We weren't Browns fans where I grew up as a boy in New Jersey, but we were definitely in awe of him.

Whenever the neighborhood kids chose up sides for a pickup game of football, we'd argue over who'd get to be Jim Brown.

Nobody wanted to be the Giants' Alex Webster. Or the Eagles' Tom Woodeshick.

We all wanted to be Jim Brown.

Even if it meant getting gang-tackled by everybody else.

It's amazing to think he's 73 now, but that's cool.

He will still be a commanding presence at Tuesday's Amer-I-Can commencement.

There is only one Jim Brown.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Congrats, concern for high school seniors

One is bound for Tulane University in New Orleans.

Another, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Another, Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., atop Lake Winnebago, the best walleye fishing in America.

They were just some of Thursday night’s Golden Herald nominees about to embark on a great adventure in their young lives.

I was happy for them.

Envious even.

Concerned, too.

For them and their fellow high school seniors around our county.

It’s party season.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrecking ball in church building's future

Tear it down.

That's my gut reaction to the ongoing debate over the Bradenton Revival Temple.

Since coming to this community more than a decade ago, I've developed a real affinity for its rich heritage and the efforts to preserve it.

But I don't feel that way toward the old, vacant church on the 700 block of Manatee Avenue West.

With all respect to Cathy Slusser, the knowledgeable director of historic resources for the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court, it is far from "a charming building" as she described it.

It is an eyesore.

Hardly a beacon of welcome into downtown Bradenton.

More like blight.

Renovating the building for law offices was the intention of attorneys Melton Little and Scott Kallins upon buying it in 2001. Then they realized it was not financially feasible and it has deteriorated to this day.

On Wednesday the Bradenton City Council postponed until Sept. 9 any decision on the attorneys' request to demolish the building.

The hope is a "white knight" will ride in and pony up a minimum $2 million to save the building and renovate it.

In this economic climate?

I doubt it.

Get the wrecking ball ready.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reels at Rossi Park: 'Field of Dreams'

Haven't checked out the sunset Reels at Rossi Park yet, but I will Friday.

"Field of Dreams" is showing.

If ever a baseball movie played so well on the chords of the relationship of a father and son and their poignant game of catch, this 1989 classic, starring my man Kevin Costner, goes yard.

"If you build it, he will come..."

The words defined the movie, about a man -- Costner as farmer Ray Kinsella -- who carves a baseball diamond out of his Iowa cornfield, and they became part of our American lexicon.

"If you build it, he will come..."

The last time we hear it in the movie, I believe, is when Shoeless Joe Jackson utters it to Costner and nods toward home plate and the catcher.

The catcher is Costner's father as a young man.

A father he was estranged from.

The ending, when they finally have that game of catch, will put a lump in your throat.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day prelude to Ireland journey

Mom wanted to return to Ireland once more.

It was a journey we took six times over 20 years, but I was afraid she wasn’t fit for a seventh.

Alas, Eileen Mannix will get her wish this summer.

I will bring her ashes back to the home of our ancestors.

Mom passed last October at the age of 83.

She’d fallen, broken a foot and faced surgery.

Although she sounded in good spirits the night before the procedure, I had a bad feeling.

My fear became reality.

Read more in Mannix About Manatee in Sunday's Herald and

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Buy a carton of smokes on installment plan

More taxes. Less service.

Hmmm. Seems like we've heard that before.

This is the Florida Legislature's "historic" plan to balance the state budget -- raise taxes, fees, licenses and rates on anything they can to the tune of $2 billion.

"Reasonable and responsible for the times we are in," a House budget officer harrumphed.

Yeah, reasonable and responsible depending on who's taking the hit.

I'll get it as a homeowner and driver, but it looks like I'm off the hook in other areas on the Legislature's tax target list.
  • Citizens Property Insurance. As shaky as homeowners insurance is in this state, perhaps Citizens customers won't mind paying a bit more for the sake of having any kind of coverage and pray hurricane season goes away without harm.

  • Park goers will be paying more, too. Just when I was digging Myakka State Park.

  • Smokers may be forking over another $1 per pack. I don't smoke but have nothing against smokers, except when they're in front of me at the express checkout, the cashier has to go to the customer service counter for the customer's cigarettes, then finds out they wanted menthol and has to go back.

  • Sportsmen. I can hear the griping already, but you know the state will get its money. Folks hereabouts love to hunt and love to fish.

  • University students. That's a good one. We all know who's paying the freight here. Watch for a slew of new bumperstickers: "My Kid and Even MORE of My Money Go to FSU."

Monday, May 4, 2009

A quick road trip back in time

Had a chance to return to my old stomping grounds in Boca Raton a few days ago.

The occasion was Lynn University's Hall of Fame athletic banquet, and yours truly gave the induction speech for Dr. Donald Ross, who retired in 2006 after 35 years at the school's helm.

Boy, did the memories come flying back.

I covered their sports program in its early years during my 19-year career with the Boca Raton News. The highlight was the Knights' 1987 men's national soccer championship.

Before my speech, Greg Malfitano, LU's senior vice president and an old pal, cautioned me.

"Remember most of our athletes weren't even born when that happened," he joked.

As if that didn't make me feel old enough, LU's president is Don's son, Kevin Ross.

I coached him in T-ball.

It was wonderful to visit with folks I hadn't seen since I left Boca in 1997 and be able to reconnect like it was just the other day.

Yet I could not get over is how drastically the city has changed.

It is far from the charming, sleepy, oceanside town I got to in 1978.

The commercial development was overwhelming.

Traffic was insane.

"You think this is bad?" Malfitano said. "You should see it during the season!"

It was a great trip, but after a couple of days I was ready to get back to Bradenton.

We took the scenic route, driving up the northeast side of Lake Okeechobee, stopping in Taylor Creek for gas.

When a big ol' pickup truck pulled out of the station, its radio was blaring Kenny Chesney's, "Out Last Night," and it made me smile.

I was halfway home.